Monday, May 6, 2019

Sorrow May Take "Mature" People By Surprise

Recently I was discussing how sometimes I still feel like a "kid inside," even though I'm 56 years old. I observed that this was a complex phenomenon for people around this age; one that involves many memories, psychological factors including gaps of immaturity in personality development, as well as the continuation within us of that essential human openness to reality. This openness enables us to see every day as new and full of promise.

We can see how "becoming like little children" corresponds to our humanity and to authentic human maturity (even while transforming it into the freedom of the children of God). In our human experience, however, it's not always so easy to distinguish or disentangle the "childlike" from the "childish."

Those of us who are over 55, who are "Young Seniors" (I may have coined a new term there 😉), have begun to sense that we are entering a new phase in life. There are many positive aspects to this, of course, but new challenges also arise, sometimes in difficult, painful, and peculiar ways.

One thing that has struck me in particular over the past year (and especially the past month) is how sorrow can take us by surprise. This is a time of life when - more and more - we lose loved ones, as parents and other elders who have mentored us for our whole lives are called home to God.

It's difficult to be past middle age, to think of yourself as mature, and to find that the "kid inside you" has suddenly become an orphan. One part of you feels embarrassed and foolish that you should be so troubled: "this is not a tragedy, no one lives forever, they are in God's hand, you will see them again, etc. etc." Still, you grieve. You feel wounded. You feel a real sense of loss.

It takes different emotional forms at various times and for various people, but it's something we must endure just as surely as we will have to endure our own death.

It feels strange because it is strange. "God did not make death. Nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living" (Wisdom 1:13). Death came into the world because of sin. This is the tragedy of the human story that touches each of us personally.

Death drives down to our very bones the tragic aspect of life, even for us who firmly believe that this tragedy is not the end of the story.

We believe that Something Has Happened, not to take away physical death nor remove suffering but to transform them from within, to fashion out of them the ultimate ways of love, the path through which what is mortal is clothed in immortality.

God did not make death.

God became our brother and suffered death.

He passed through death and beyond death. He rose to eternal life, and we are called to join him "if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:17).

We will have much grief and many sorrows. It's human. Hopefully as we grow older we value what is human more, even when we don't understand it.

The Lord didn't say to us, "Do not suffer." He said, "Do not be afraid" (see e.g. Luke 12:7, Rev 1:17, et alia).

In the hard moments, the sorrowful moments, the incomprehensible moments, the desperate moments, the final moments, God is with us.

He is with us in the anguish, the awful solitude, the flesh and blood of all of it.

He is Jesus. He will carry us through.

Stay with him.